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in reducing the efficiency of labor. Throughout all that has been said the laborer has been assumed to be temperate and well-intentioned. Of the frightful waste of productive power, through both the diminution of work and the increase of waste, which results from the vice of drunkenness, so lamentably characterizing certain races, it can not be necessary to speak. More than all the festivals of the Greek or the Roman church, the worship of “ Saint Monday” reduces the current wages of labor, while leaving its ineffaceable marks on heart and brain and hand. The want of common honesty between man and man, though happily less frequent than the indulgence of vicious appetites, works even deeper injury to industry where it prevails in any considerable degree. “A breach of trust among the stoneworkers of Septmoncel,” says Lord Brabazon, in his report of 1872 on the condition of the industrial classes of France, “would be sufficient to cause the banishment of this rich industry from the mountains of the Jura to the workshops of Paris and Amsterdam ;” and the same judicious reporter states that the abstraction of the silk given to the Lyons workmen to manufacture “has always weighed heavily on the trade of that city.” “To meet this,” says M. Beaulieu, in his Populations Ouvrières, “the manufacturer has but one resource, the diminution of the rate of wages. Either the factory or workshop must be closed or wages must be lowered. There is no middle course, and in either case the workman is the sufferer.” It need not be said that the illicit gains thus obtained-sold as the plunder is surreptitiously, under penalty of the galleys—have afforded a very inadequate
1 " Almost invariably an unemployed day in Belgium." (Report of Mr. Consul Grattan on the condition of the industrial classes, 1872, p. 19.) Much the same story comes from Norway and Sweden, Eng. land and Scotland, whose inhabitants we reckon among the noblest peoples of the world.
* P. 67.
WAGES THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF INDUSTRY. 79
compensation to the workmen for the loss which their dishonesty inflicted upon the trade.
I can not better close this extended discussion of the causes which contribute to the efficiency of labor than by introducing two extracts, the first from Dr. Kane's work on the Industrial Resources of Ireland, in wbich he accounts very justly for the difference between the Irish and the English laborer of that period; the second from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Both are profoundly significant, and I ask the reader's careful consideration of them with reference to the principles previously discussed, and also with reference to the doctrine of the wages fund, to be treated hereafter.
“A wretched man,” says Dr. Kane, “who can earn by his exertion but four or five shillings a week, on which to support his family and pay the rent of a sort of habitation, must be so ill-fed and depressed in mind that to work as a man should work is beyond his power. Hence there are often seen about employments in this country a number of hands double what would be required to do the same work in the same time with British laborers. • • • When 1 say that the men thus employed at low wages do so much less real work, I do not mean that they intentionally idle, or that they reflect that as they receive so little they should give little value; on the contrary, they do their best honestly to earn their wages; but, supplied only with the lowest descriptions of food, and perhaps in insufficient quantity, they have not the physical ability for labor, and being without any direct prospect of advancement, they are not excited by that laudable ambition to any display of superior energy. If the same men are placed in circumstances where a field for increased exertion is opened to them, and they are made to understand, what at first they are rather incredulous about, that they will receive the full value of any increased labor they perform, they become new beings, the work they execute rises to the highest standard, and they earn as much money as the laborers of any other country. Wages are no longer low, but labor is not on that account any dearer than it has been before.”
“ The liberal reward of labor," says Adam Smith,' “ as it encourages the propagation, so it encourages the industry, of the common people. The wages of labor are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the laborer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition and ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious than where they are low: in England, for example, than in Scotland ; in the neighborhood of great towns than in remote country places.”
THE DEGRADATION OF LABOR.
I use the term, degradation of labor, here in the sense of the reduction of the laborer from a higher to a lower industrial grade.
The constant imminence of this change, the smallness of the causes, often accidental in origin and temporary in duration, which may produce it, and the almost irreparable consequences of such a catastrophe, are not sufficiently attended to in discussions of wages. To the contrary, it is the self-protecting power of labor which is dwelt upon. It is shown how, if by any insidious cause, or from any sudden disaster in trade or production, be the same local or general, industry is impaired and employment diminished, labor immediately sets itself, by natural laws, to right itself, by withholding increase of population, or by migrating to more fortunate localities.
The same, if labor be crowded down by the power of capital, or by unjust laws: through economical harmonies which have excited the admiring gratitude of many writers, the vindicaticn of the laboring class is effected automatically and peacefully, without revolution and without machinery. The excessive profits which the employing class are thus enabled for a time to make, increase the capital of the community, and thus give enhanced employment to laborers, so that, in the end, it is quite as well as if the money had gone in wages instead of profits. Thus Prof. Perry says: “If capital gets a relatively too large r ward, nothing can interrupt the tendency that labor shall get, in consequence of that, a larger reward the next time. . . . If capital takes an undue advantage of labor at any point, as unfortunately it sometimes does, somebody at some other point has, in consequence of that, a stronger desire to employ laborers, and so the wrong tends to right itself. This is the great conservative force in the relations of capital to labor."
Now, of the degrees of celerity and certainty with which population does, in fact, adapt itself to changes in the seats or in the forms of industry, or assert itself against the encroachments of the employing class or the outrages of legislation, I shall have occasion to speak with some fulness hereafter (Chapter XI.). But I desire at the present time, in close connection with our discussion of the causes which contribute to the efficiency of labor, to point out the consequences of any failure or undue delay on the part of population in thus resenting the loss of employment or the reduction of wages. .
The trouble is, these changes which are to set labor right always require time, and often a very long time. There is danger, great danger, that meanwhile men will simply drop down in the industrial and social scale, accept their lot, and adapt themselves to the newly-imposed conditions of life and labor. If this most melancholy result
* The Financier, August 1, 1874.
*" There is considerable evidence that the circumstances of the agri. cultural laborers in England have more than once in our history sustained great permanent deterioration from causes which operated by diminishing the demand for labor, and which, if population bad exercised its power of self-adjustment in obedience to the previous standard of comfort, could only have had a temporary effect; but, unhappily, the poverty in which the class was plunged during a long series of years brought that previous standard into disuse, and the next generation, growing up without baving possessed those pristine comforts, multiplied in turn without any attempt to retrieve them.”-J. S. Mill, Pol. Econ., i. 41.
Mr. Mill here explains the whole permanent effect upon the grounds